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Campbell Brown

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CNN

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mpeg2video

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mp2

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Bryant 77, U.s. 24, Pakistan 16, Bryant Neal Vinas 13, Afghanistan 10, United States 8, America 7, Islam 7, Cnn 7, New York 6, Ahmed Zarrini 6, Us 6, New York City 5, Fbi 5, Al Qaeda 5, Cuba 5, Ibrahim 3, Lahore 3, Spain 3, Belgium 3,
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  CNN    Campbell Brown    News/Business.  

    July 10, 2010
    11:00 - 12:00am EDT  

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♪ >> reporter: boasted one fan, with eight ten tackles i'd like to see him do a penalty kick. jeanne moos, cnn, new york. it's spain versus netherlands tomorrow. who do you have? >> spain. >> spain. >> i'm don lemon. thanks for watching. good night, everyone. i'll see you back here tomorrow night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com >r th this ip >>g pman who wanted rman who w america. meet some of his top commanders. his story begins not in the middle east, not in europe. his story begins in middle class america. a typical all american
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childhood. playing baseball, riding bikes. his name is bryant kneel venus and he's part of a frightening new trend, home grown terrorists. >> radiccalization is definitely on the rise in the united states. >> american citizens radiccal iezing, eager to kill their countrymen. venus is the terrorist next door. the american al qaeda. al qaeda's target, the busiest commuter railroad in the united states, the long island railroad in new york. hundreds of thousands of passengers every weekday. helping plan the bomb attack is an american, a lifelong new
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yorker, bryant kneel venus. he gives an al qaeda leader detailed information about the operation at the long island railroad system. bryant is not providing the information from long distance. he is in the mountains of pakistan, living and training with al qaeda. but he is not only helping plan attacks inside the united states. he's also attacking u.s. troops in afghanistan. >> we've almost called venus the forest gufrp of the jihad in the sense that he seemed to find this way to get himself involved in operations or attacks that seem way beyond a 20-some-odd convert from long island should be involved in. >> an american so radical iezed, so dangerous, he's willing to help al qaeda plot bombings that
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could kill his own friends and even his own family on long island. >> in a conventional war you have companies, you have divisions, you have brigades, you have battalions. in this war, every single person counts. every sickle person that goes over there like him is somebody we can't miss. >> but the tables could be turning on al qaeda. their one-time secret weapon could be spilling their secrets. family, friends, and intelligence officials are left wondering why and how did bryant turn into a terrorist. who convinced him to wage jihad against his neighbors? my search for answers begins about an hour's drive from new york city where bryant kneel
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venus was born to the suburbs of long island where his family still lives. i spent the better part of a year unraveling how why bryant venus went from catholic to muslim, to u.s. army recruit to jihadist, from long island to lahore. this is where he grew up, the son of immigrants from south america. his sister met with me and was happy to talk about her brother, whom she described as a social friendly young boy, but she didn't want to go on camera. our producer, cnn tourism analyst paul has met with her and bryant's parents several more times. >> bryants mother used to call him my teddy bear. he was an extremely sweet kid. he'd fix her breakfast in bed
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when she wasn't feeling well. >> she remembers the happier times. she lived down the street. she said her family adored bryant. >> for us, i will say bryant was like family. >> like another son for you in this house. >> yes, like another son. >> regis knew him pest. what are your first memories of bryant? >> when we were younger, we use god in the pool a lot. he was respectful. we would make sure he didn't break any sort of rules in the house. >> as he grew up, bryant developed a passion for baseball. >> he took it very seriously. seriously enough to bikeride to the high school, which to here would take on a bicycle half an hour. >> but those would be bryant's last care-free days. his world would be shattered by family turmoil, by his father leaving his mother when he was a young teenager. he was devastated by their
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separation and eventual divorce. bryant was filled with anger and started acting out at home. >> there were tears and temper tantrums, he started quarrelling with his sister, being disrespectful to his mother. he refused to accept their separation. >> it also led him to experiment with a new church. >> bryant started attending an evangelical protestant church, according to his mother. he seemed to be looking for something, seeking a new direction in his new life. >> his mother says bryant became too much for her to handle, so she went to court and gave up custody of him. at one point the family found bryant sleeping in his car. >> it was one of those moments where there was no place to go. we offered him the house, and he was more welcome to come, and he did stay here for about a month or so.
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>> she says they lost touch with bryant when he moved into this house to live with his father and his father's soon-to-be wife. but it was an uneasy arrangement. he said bryant couldn't come to terms with his father remarrying. unhappy with his father and no longer speaking to his mothering he was losing the stability of family, losing the sense of belonging, turning to new friends for emotional support, searching for a new identity. it was here that bryant would make a new friendship that would lead all the way to the al qaeda camps in pakistan. it was to be a long journey, and at the time neither he nor his new buddy had any idea what the relationship would lead to. >> i just never thought he would have done something like this. >> it would begin with bryant
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seemingly insatable curiosity. i would lead him to turn his back on his christianity and eventually lead him to turn against his own country. gave h. this tastes way too good to be fiber. they're delicious crunchy clusters with sweet honey and half a day's worth of fiber. you care about my fiber? not really. [ male announcer ] fiber one. twenty-five thousand mornings, give or take, is all we humans get. we spend them on treadmills. we spend them in traffic. and if we get lucky, really lucky, it dawns on us to go spend them in a world where a simple sunrise can still be magic. twenty-five thousand mornings. make sure some of them are pure michigan. your trip begins at michigan.org.
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resless teenager. he was angry with his parents for separating, uncomfortable living with his father and new stepmother. >> did he happen to talk about his times, how that relationship was? >> it was sour, so the relationship between him and his family, they just crumbled. they shattered in pieces. and he started a new life with his friends. >> alex would become bryant's closest friend. he sits down with me for his first-ever interview about his best buddy. >> so is, tell me how you first met with bryant? where did you meet him? >> i met him at the high school. he was lonely, you could tell. so as times went on, i eve eventually tapped him on the shoulders. >> it was the beginning of a
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friendship that would last well beyond high school and eventually put bryant on his path to islam. alex liked partying but he liked bryant's clean lifestyle. >> he was passion at about finishing school and going to college. >> he sounds like a middle-class kid. >> oh, he is. he's very focused. to me he's very goal-oriented. >> alex takes me to one of their favorite haunts, this nearby harbor where they would eat ice cream, kick back, watch the boats. >> what was special about this place to him? >> just the water, feeling free, knowing that the boats come in and leave, know he can jump in a boat and go anywhere he decided to go. >> just got a little bit of the
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travel bug in him. >> yeah, he always wanted to travel. he wanted to get away, always. >> on the well kept streets in long island where bryant is living with his father, he's surrounded by the symbols of patriotism. it's 2001 after the al qaeda attack on september 11th. one of bryant's friends joins the marines. one joins the army, and another two, the coast guard. >> what was he talking to you about what he wanted to do with his life? >> he just said he wanted to go in the military, you know, and just come out and just live happy. >> in march 2002, bryant himself makes the commitment to his nation and enlists in the u.s. army. his military records obtained by cnn shows he signed up for the infantry and goes to ft. jackson, south carolina, but after three weeks is discharged. his records don't elaborate due to privacy laws. bryant's family says he was
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discharged due to his as ma. we also asked his friends. >> what did he tell you about his experiences in the army? >> he said it was good at one point but boot camp sucked. he said it was too difficult on him. >> by now bryant is in his early 20s, drifting. he doesn't have much money and is eating breakfast cereal for lunch and dinner trying to save money to go to cuba, and he does go twice. >> in long island bryant is getting into boxing. cuba is a great place to pursue this. he trains with a boxing instructor and for a while dates his trainer's daughter and the relationship ended when he couldn't get back into the cuba a third time. >> yeah, it hurt him. it hurt him a lot. >> it's illegal for bryant to go to cuba but he get away way with it. by entering the u.s. without revealing where he's been, claiming he lost his past port.
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a man with the nypd who would later become intimately involved in the case. cuba is a new side. >> it's almost a challenge for him, an extreme travel. that had sort of an appeal to him, being a counter-culture type of approach. so, yeah, sure, he went to cuba even though he knew it was against the rules. >> back home on long island, bryant's friends say he seemed to be searching for a sense of family. a belonging. he senses that in victor, an aspiring boxer and a muslim convert. bryant has sparred with him. now he wants the camaraderie that victor shares with his muslim buddies. >> he asked what is a the koran and my brother explained to him what it was and he handed him the koran. >> how long did it take him to read it? >> not long because he took
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every minute, every second reading that book. he didn't sleep. he just sat there and read that whole book. >> bryant has been searching for his sense of purpose and identity. first it was evangelical christianity, then the army. now it's an entirely new religion. within weeks of reading the koran that victor gave him, bryant travels from long island to new york city to this months can queen. he's decided to convert to. the members are like jehovah's witnesses, spreading the word, looking for converts. they avoid politics. and although it's not considered a radical movement, it's pointed out that the members' zealousness can make some of them vulnerable to radical
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recruiters. >> several have become implicated in terrorism. here one, another the rinne leader in the 2005 bombing atta attacks. >> unwittingly bryant neal vinas has taken another step on his path to al qaeda, a journey to jihad that soon would be inspired by new radical friending. >> to hell with america and to hell with barack obama. [ male announcer ] nature valley
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i'm don lemon. here are your headlines this hour. right now oil is pouring out at the gulf of mexico at the rate of up to 60,000 barrels a day. on saturday bp removed the containment cap that had been capturing some of the oil for the past few weeks. a new and improved cap is
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supposed to take its place in the next few days. it is designed to seal the top and enable bp to collect all the oil from the well until relief wells can finally kill the blowout. but there's a lot of work ahead that needs to be done between now and then. new rules could mean new help for military's veterans that sufler from post traumatic distress disorder. the plan should be overhauled so vets can get help easier and faster than before. to check out this video. heavy rains inundated the boston area saturday causing flash floods and stranding cars. flash flood warnings were issued for found counties in eastern massachusetts. no injuries were reported. it forced a closure in two bridges in the boston area and the weather snarled traffic. i'm don lemon, keeping you informed. cnn, the most trusted name in news.
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jeerks bryant neal vinas, age 20, has a new religion, a new muslim name. ibrahim. and according to his new best friend, new priorities. >> you can see it in his face and in his eyes that he was more focused, more happy, you know, there was no more playing softball, doing this and that. there was more praying. >> vinas comes to pray here at the moderate sellden mosque on long island, where qureshi is a prominent member. >> his name is going to be ibrahim and i said very good. welcome to the mosque. he seemed like a very nice, quiet guy. >> he's making new friends, becoming devout, but not get radical. this member of the mosque knew him well. he's afraid to show his face to the camera. >> yeah, he's serious, but he's
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quiet, you know. i don't see no violence in him, nothing like that, you know. just a quiet kid. >> this mosque became bryant's focus, an obsession even. he would spend a lot of his spare time here. he got to know the caretaker well. would ask him questions. they would chat. >> they were, like, together every single day, because, you know, i think ibrahim didn't have a good relationship with his family, so he was with this caretaker, you know, all day long. they were like really good friends. >> the caretaker was reluctant to speak to us on camera. but told us their close relationship began to sour when bryant began spending more and more time with this man -- >> these people are liars! >> ahmed zarrini, a young man turned down by members of the mosque when he offered to run classes for the children. >> i have that feeling that he might not follow a guideline over books.
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>> ahmed zarrini was no moderate muslim. our investigations have shown that he was a leading figure in a radical islamist group. the islamic thinkers society. counterterrorism officials say they've come to the same conclusion. >> show disgust and disappointment! >> zarrini is front and center at demonstrations held by the islamic thinkers society in new york city. it has a radical anti-american message. >> you see this flag here? >> one that doesn't fit at the selden mosque, but the group is entirely legal. >> as much as islamic thinkers society might put out an extremist message, it seems they go right up to you line with the first amendment. >> freedom of expression, yeah. >> in this country. >> i got the message out there of what i have to do, so there's really noing that they can do to me.
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i happen to understand united states law and constitution and these things and i exercise my rights. >> counterterrorism officials say that it is through the islamic thinkers society that bryant begins to develop his ideas about jihad and wanting to fight u.s. troops. >> in a sense they're almost bug lights for aspiring jihadists, they've got an anti-western, anti-democratic, anti-u.s., pro-al qaeda message. >> to hell with america! >> and the leading light of the group, according to counterterrorism officials, was this man, yousef al kahtab. >> i love osama bin laden. i love him -- whoa, like i can't begin to tell you. >> he recently told cnn's drew griffin that he met bryant. >> how closely did you know bryant neal vinas? >> i met him one time. >> one time? >> that's it. i just knew that he was a good muslim brother, and that was it. >> and you are an enemy of islam! >> you are an enemy of islam. >> but law enforcement officials tell us that kahtab met bryant on several occasions. khattab has since left the united states. so we tried to locate ahmed
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zarrini, the islamic thinkers society member, who we've been told first introduced bryant to the radical group. khattab has told us that ahmed zarrini was considered an extremist even within the islamic thinkers society. i come here to zarrini's parents' house near the selde n mosque in long island. if ahmed is in there, then behind those windows could be the secret to bryant's radicalization. i don't see ahmed, but i do meet his father. >> thank you. >> you have a very good day. >> you too. thank you. >> good luck. >> mr. zarrini tells me, ahmed is not home. he's out of the country. but we get a tip that ahmed is not abroad. so we wait, and within a few hours a car goes by. >> that's him. that's him! that's ahmed. >> in it, ahmed and his father. later that day, i return to the house. >> well, ahmed zarrini's father
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just admitted to me that he lied to me earlier in the day when he told me that ahmed wasn't around. he admits now that his son was in fact inside the house. i am told ahmed refuses to meet me or answer any of my questions. but while i'm searching for him, i stumble across someone who will talk. he is ahmed kaiyum, one-time devotee of the islamic thinkers society. i first reach him by phone. i'm from cnn, yes. his number was given to me who believes that kaiyum is important to my investigation. i understand that you may know something about bryant neal vinas. >> are you on his side or are you against him just because he accepted islam? snool he. >> he admits he knows bryant and ahmed zarrini, but he's reluctant to go on camera. he's scared we may be fbi agents.
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>> you can be fbi agent as well, right? trying to pose as an investigative reporter. >> the fbi, we're later told, is trying to track kaiyum down for questioning, but cnn gets there first. he eventually agrees to an on-camera interview in pakistan where he is living. >> i don't think that the american evil empire's going to last too long now. >> kaiyum was an acting student in new york. >> and lead the muslims to victory! >> before he drifted into radical circles with the islamic thinkers society. >> i mean, i like what they did, you know, and i joined them on a lot of occasions, spreading the word. you know, trying to get the truth out. >> and kaiyum is about to play a very significant role in setting bryant neal vinas on his path to al qaeda. zarrini, khattab, kaiyum, all belong to the islamic thinkers society.
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bryant begins to emulate his new friends, dress like them, flowing arabic-style robes. but his friends at the moderate sellden mosque worry he is falling under the influence of these radical friends and that they are preying on his vulnerability. >> i think he is depressed, you know, because the relationship with his family. plus he get laid off, no job, you know, no money. that would lead you to be depressed. >> they took advantage of that. >> yes, of course, they took advantage of that, you know. >> and set him off in the right path. >> yeah, which is easy to do with someone who is depressed. >> but it is bryant's next step that really begins to shock his old friends at the sden mosque. he tells them that he wants to join muslims fighting u.s. troops in afghanistan. >> i told him, do not go. >> but bryant is determined to wage jihad on america. i want a home run.
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neal vinas is spending time with his radical new friends, but he is also spending time alone on the internet, hour after hour, withdrawing into himself, viewing videos that enrage him. by now, alex is seeing his old friend change, more than ever. who's putting the extremist ideas in his head? >> it's clips here, clips there. just a bunch of different websites he would go on the computer. >> there's evidence to believe that he was on there looking at websites, getting encouragement
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on websites that jihad was permissible. >> and as he reads, the one-time army recruit begins to believe that the u.s. was behind the 9/11 attacks, that america is at war with islam. >> yeah. yeah, there's a war against islam. >> this is what bryant believed? >> this is what bryant believed. you know, he was always pissed off, always mad. >> he even thinks that a federal agency, fema, is believing concentration camps where the government is going to put muslims. >> by this time bryant neal vinas wants to leave the united states. >> cnn terrorism analyst paul krukshank has talked extensively with friends and investigators about this time in bryant's life. >> he is so immersed in extremist ideology that he's no longer satisfied with espousing
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the extremist thinkers society. he craves action. >> what's happening in palestine in saudi arabia, and everywhere? >> the pattern that we've seen is that a lot of these individuals were attracted to the bug light, and at a certain point realize these groups are just talkers. they're not going to do more than demonstrate. they're not going to do more than put out extreme statements. and those who are serious about the jihad will leave these groups. >> and bryant has already made it clear that he wants to wage jihad, making him feel increasingly out of step with the moderate selden mosque. he needs somewhere else to pray. he comes up this long dirt road to a small nondescript house. a new mosque. the man who was then deputy head of the fbi's national security branch tells me that he sees this pattern all too often. >> people peeling off in smaller groups because either they don't feel comfortable in one environment or people actively in that environment say, you're not welcome here. that's a pretty common phenomenon.
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>> are they more at risk once they've peeled off? >> yes. i think they're clearly more at risk because you're going to get a close circle of individuals, where other ideas can't penetrate. >> we stand up for the truth! >> some in bryant's group tell me that bryant came to believe that the united states was at war with islam. he became so convinced of this that he took up bin laden's command to stop paying united states taxes. he also told them he wanted to go and fight jihad. but his friends never thought he would actually go and do it. >> i didn't think that he was going to go kill somebody. >> bryant suggests to alex they come here to this long island gun range just a few weeks before he would leave. alex still doesn't realize how serious his friend is about going to wage jihad. so what were you -- what were you shooting here? >> we was just clay shooting and shooting at targets. >> yeah?
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the targets up here? >> yes. >> yeah? >> oh, we probably shot a good 200 rounds. >> did he like it on the range? did he like being here and hearing the guns going off? >> yeah. he liked it very much. he felt free. >> but bryant has a problem -- how to get to pakistan, how to link up with jihadists. >> bryant neal vinas stands out as an individual who had no real connections to pakistan. so someone obviously had to vouch for bryant neal vinas in order for him to make those connections in pakistan. >> bryant finds out that someone in his new circle of radical friends ahmed kaiyum does have contacts in pakistan. he decides to start hiding his true intentions from his friends, telling them he wants to go to pakistan to attend a
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religious school, a madrassas. >> it's a perfect cover for someone who doesn't want to reveal their true intentions until the end. >> finally, it is time for good-byes. alex says he remains haunted by bryant's parting words. >> he told me, he was like, i'll see you in your dreams. i say, in my dreams? what are you talking about? he was like, i'll call you in your dreams. i was dumbfounded. and he just gave me a book, and the book was "jihad." >> within weeks, bryant would be in afghanistan, on a mission targeting u.s. troops.
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here are your headlines this hour. right now oil is pouring out of the broken well in the gulf of mexico at the rate of up to 60,000 barrels a day. on saturday bp removed the containment cap. a new and improved cap is supposed to take its place in the next few days. it is designed to seal the top and enable bp to collect all the oil from the well until relief wells can finally kill the blowout. but there's a lot of work ahead that needs to be done between now and then. new rules could mean new help for america's military veterans suffering from pstd. they plan to overhaul its rules as soup as next week so vets can get help sooner and easier than before. check out this video. heavy rains inundated boston area saturday causing flash floods and strand iing cars. flash flood warnings were issued for four counties. it forced the closure of at
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least two bridges in the boston area and weather related issues snarled travel. those are your headline this hour. i'm don lemon, keeping you informed. cnn, the most trusted name in news. on september 10th, 2007, bryant neal vinas flew from here, new york, to lahore, pakistan. it had been five years since he'd been a u.s. army recruit. a little less since he converted from catholic to muslim. now he was on his way to afghanistan to attack u.s. troops. bryant's never been to the region before. but one of his radical friends in new york, ahmed kaiyum, the acting student, is from pakistan. they make arrangements to fly there around the same time. >> my flight got delayed for a
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few days, and he arrived in lahore a few days before me. >> kaiyum claims that bryant's told him he's only come to pakistan to attend a religious school, a madrassas, to become a better muslim. >> i think -- the frontier, you know, he wanted to go to a madrassas there. >> u.s. security officials tell us they believe that not only did kaiyum know about bryant's plans to attack u.s. troops, but also helps him hook up with contacts here in pakistan who can introduce him to militants on the border with afghanistan. the land of the taliban and al qaeda. kaiyum denies this. bryant knows without his help he would be putting himself in extreme danger. >> the people we see out in that part of the world are very suspicious of people who walk up to a camp. they want to see bona fides, someone who knows that person already. a facilitator from that person's home country, for example, who might say, trust this guy.
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>> in this interrogation document cnn has obtained from european sources, bryant describes what happens next. >> within weeks, it seems like he's involved with military action, guerilla action out there. >> he joins the militants on a mission to attack u.s. bases in afghanistan. in his interrogation, bryant describes hauling weapons to a mountaintop, then aborting the mission as u.s. aircraft closed in. >> his trajectory, you know, he's shown his ability to sort of surprise us in terms of his, really, desire and eagerness to get into a fight overseas. >> according to what bryant later tells investigators, he is soon asked to become a suicide bomber and he accepts. >> he may have viewed it as potentially some type of test to vet him as to whether he was really serious about this. >> you're going to go through multiple paths, multiple doors, if you will, before someone says okay, we think we kind of, sort
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of, maybe trust this person. >> but when taliban militants here in pakistan don't provide bryant with the training and action he wants, his impatience gets the better of him, and he begins a series of unsuccessful attempts to join osama bin laden's followers. one time he disguises himself as a woman, dresses in a burqa, to hide his hispanic-american identity, and sets off alone to find an al qaeda camp. he fails, but he won't give up and nearly loses his life because of his persistence. >> some fighters in the tribal areas still don't trust vinas. they suspect he could be a spy. on one occasion, militants he runs into decide to kill him, and they almost do, but he talks them out of it. >> after a few more months, finally he gets what he wants, al qaeda relents, letting him into their camp in the
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hard-scrabbled hills of pakistan's lawless border region. bryant neal vinas becomes a fully fledged member of al qaeda. by now he has already shown the al qaeda recruiters one of his most valuable assets -- perseverance. veteran's cia psychologist marc sageman advised the nypd. >> that trait of persistence would make him potentially very dangerous if he had decided to do some kind of terrorist plot in the west, because he would not have given up. >> bryant is given a place to live with jihadists from europe. conditions in the small house are spartan. some of the europeans he meets are being trained for international operations. >> you have a subset of people who might undergo different
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training in very small facilities on things like how to build an explosive device, how to evade foreign security services, how to communicate in a secret manner. >> soon al qaeda instructor s are training bryant on ak-47s, rockets, heavy machine guns, how to build bombs, how to kill u.s. troops across the border in afghanistan. >> so he was really going through a fixed regiment, a training regiment that al qaeda has been using. >> bryant was becoming a fully trained terrorist, becoming a danger to his own nation. >> once they go out there and gain that kind of operational training, whether it's communication, security, or how to build a device, their potential lethality is much greater. >> it is now over a year since bryant first arrived in pakistan. he is again on the verge of what he's been dreaming about -- killing u.s. troops.
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when he's considered qualified to participate in a missile attack, he moves close to the border with afghanistan, other al qaeda fighters join him. they try two rocket attacks from inside pakistan on u.s. troops across the border, but it doesn't go well. he details what happened. the first attack was not launched because of radio communication problems. and the second rocket attack did not reach the base. it is where he wants to be, but al qaeda has other plans for him. >> his main value to al qaeda is the same value that they've been looking for, really going back to 9/11. in the sense, who can operate for al qaeda in the west? >> bryant, the all-american boy, is being groomed for something
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special. he meets this man. one of al qaeda's founders. believed to be his current military chief. >> bryant neal vinas. here's an individual, not only has he spent a lot of time in the west, but he's got a u.s. passport. and also just from physical appearance, he certainly doesn't look like he's an arab or south asian. so if you're al qaeda thinking that you're looking to potentially get around customs or some type of security regiment many the west, here's an individual who has a lot of appeal to you, who's just sort of shown up on your door step. >> could he become al qaeda's secret weapon in a deadly plot to strike its primary target, inside the usa? host: could switching to geico really save you fifteen percent
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bryant is now battle-ready, would al qaeda ask him to attack back home inside the united states. we may never know. somewhere on this timeline -- and they won't tell us exactly when -- u.s. intelligence agencies began tracking bryant. what we do know is that in the fall of 2008 he left the safety of the al qaeda camps and territories here in afghanistan and traveled to peshawar where he was detained and swiftly transported to the united states and then secretly taken into a brooklyn courthouse. he pleads guilty to three charges, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
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receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization. and conspiracy to murder u.s. nationals. >> this potential information that he'd given to al qaeda, that sort of concept that had already been used not only in mum bar, but also in madrid. >> bryant's story isn't over yet. as much as he was a potential benefit to al qaeda, now he's a gold mine to the u.s. so far he's given over a hundred interviews to the fbi. counterterrorism officials say this information has been exceptionally helpful, priceless in targeting al qaeda and the taliban. as good, officials say, as having a u.s. spy penetrate al qaeda. >> i don't respect your opinion because -- >> bryant's former radical hero feels betrayed. >> for informing on the people that are fighting in afghanistan i call him a coward, absolutely.
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>> it's heartening to get somebody like this to learn and to keep evolving and al qaeda's evolving against us at the same time. >> it is intelligence, counterterrorism officials say, that strikes at the heart of al qaeda, locations of operatives, how al qaeda runs its courier networks. information still useful, months after bryant's arrest. >> bryant neal vinas was mixing with european jihadists and that's why i'm on this train heading to brussels, to meet the head of belgium intelligence. he knows who bryant was meeting and what they were plotting. >> it's been passed over by fbi to -- >> he admits what u.s. intelligence officials will only say off camera. bryant is helping investigators. bryant's testimony was important in a recent terror trial in belgium that resulted in guilty verdicts. >> any information in this field is of importance and has to be checked, cross-checked, double checked.
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>> and in bryant neal vinas's case, he had something of value? >> some his declarations had an added value for several intelligence and law enforcement services. >> with his newfound european jihadi friends, bryant talked about terror plots. at one time discussing a plan to attack belgium's metro, the underground rail commuter network here in brussels. but it wasn't the only rail network that bryant discussed targeting. he told investigators he talked with al qaeda about attacking the long island railroad that terminates here in penn station and new york. they reacted swiftly, within several weeks of his arrest, stepping up security here in time for thanksgiving 2008. >> i don't doubt for a moment that since 9/11, al qaeda's
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desire and intention to attack new york city hasn't dropped one iota, that they still, really, it's the number one target for them in the united states. so having a new yorker show up on their doorstep who could tell them about the long island railroad and other specifics about new york city must have been for them, potentially, a great opportunity that they wanted to exploit. >> inside a u.s. prison, bryant is getting lonely. he's begun contacting some of his old friends, sending this letter to alex. >> "i know by now you've heard about me through the news. you ever see the movie "groundhogs day?" well, that's what i feel like every day. write back when you can." >> alex says he will not write back, but if he did -- >> i would say, "thanks for the pressure. thanks for the pressure. thanks for not being open with me. thanks for not being a friend."
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>> you're angry with him. >> yeah, i'm pissed off. i'm pissed off at him. i don't want to bother with him, nothing. nothing. >> but to the radical who befriended him in new york city and who counterterrorism officials believe hooked him up we've met with them many times to talk about bryant and they're still shocked, upset and angry. they say bryant was a person who was beautiful inside. but now they feel they hardly know him anymore. they say that if this happened to them, it will happen to another american family. bryant neal vinas was